My experiences around building brands & teams will come in handy: Haresh Chawla

11 Apr,2012


He’s had an indelible association with Network 18 and was largely responsible for the group turning into a large conglomerate today from being a wannabe a few years ago. He’s better known for effecting quite a few turnarounds across the multiple organisations that he’s worked in, especially start-ups that have gone on to become large empires today. Whether at HCL Group, where he headed business development for HCL Comnet or at ABCL, where he set up the Film Distribution Business or at the Times of India Group where he launched their music label – Times Music, Haresh Chawla has an exceptional approach in the way businesses need to function.


Having sent the media world into a tizzy post his decision to move on from Network 18, Haresh Chawla is back in the news and will be seen reprising a role that he has advocated earlier, though in a smaller way. Chawla has joined private equity firm India Value Fund Advisors (IVFA) as Partner and will be responsible for building and scaling up businesses owned by IVFA across sectors, as well as leading media & entertainment investments at IVFA. He will resume office on June 1, 2012.


In conversation with MxM India’s Johnson Napier, Haresh Chawla divulges his plans and responsibilities at IVFA, on the scope that private equity firms offer to mid-sized businesses and admits on missing working for the behemoth that continues to make noise even after his departure. Excerpts:


Congratulations on your appointment as Partner, IVFA. After your announcement of moving on from Network18, many had anticipated you to be joining another large media entity but that’s obviously not the case now. What made you join a private equity firm and not take up anything else?

My desire really was to grow from the role that I had undertaken at Network 18 and try and do something different. As I said, I have prior experiences in building businesses and brands and I can use that in a much different environment where the operating environment is different and where both capital and management coexist together and you also have to mentor teams. So it’s slightly different attempt from a pure operating point of view.


Any other interesting offers from media entities before you took up this role at IVFA?

I wouldn’t like to comment on that.


While you’ve donned the role of being an entrepreneur-investor in the past, what is the newness that this role will bring to the fore at IVFA?

It’ll be about focussing on new projects. If you see, the fund (IVFA) is a diversified fund, so it will be in a larger operating space in that sense. Also, the fund will also be about operating with mid-sized companies and scaling their businesses up. This is what will be the difference in the projects that I have undertaken in the past and what I will be doing at IVFA.


My experiences around building brands and teams in the past will come in handy here, only this time around it will be done in a much larger space. The company is unique, in the sense that it has both capital and management, so the canvas is much larger than what I have attempted in the past.



You’ve been seen as a leader who enjoys taking up challenges in floating new start-ups and turning them into profitable ventures. How similar or different will be your approach at IVFA?

The approach would be pretty much similar to what I have done in the past. The challenge is that IVFA is a firm that buys businesses that are at an interesting stage in their lives and really help them scale up and build them into much larger businesses. I look forward to continuing what one has done in the past few years and build up on that.


Your new role would see you being involved with various other sectors apart from Media & Entertainment. Having largely handled media-based clients in the past, how do you see yourself acclimatising to these new sectors?

I actually see this as an opportunity. Whatever work I do on Media & Entertainment will clearly be an opportunity for me to put to use my past experience. As for work on firms with a non-media background, I look at it as a challenge as to how to learn a new business and how to further develop that into something more meaningful for the company.


One of the focus areas at IVFA would be on strategic management thinking that is required to scale up mid-sized businesses into large professionally-run enterprises. Is this something that is being ignored by most other equity players of today?

IVFA is unique in the sense that it has a very strong operating focus as well, which is not the case with other PE fund companies. The other thing about IVFA is that it tries to take majority stake in businesses. Bottomline is, the operating focus of IVFA is of a magnitude that’s very different from other PE funds.


What do you perceive of the private equity space in India today given that the country is witnessing a slowdown where investments/spends are concerned?

My sense is that despite the slowdown,Indiais still a growing market. One of the challenges that PE businesses had is that valuation has been prohibited in the Indian market for the last few years. But I guess that there is sensibility coming back in the valuations as the economy comes to terms with moderate growth. Therefore clearly, opportunities for private equity players are better because access to public markets is currently less buoyant. So you will find entrepreneurs and promoters turning to private equity now versus the last few years where public markets were the major source of money.


Do you miss your association with Network 18?

I do and I have learnt a lot at Network 18 where brand building and engagement is concerned. Hopefully I could use a lot of what I have learnt there at IVFA.


Would you like to comment on how work is progressing at Network 18 post you moving on?

No, I wouldn’t like to say anything on that front.


Is there a goalpost that you have set aside for IVFA in a year from now?

Right now I am taking a break and will join IVFA in two months’ time. You could probably call me later and ask me this question again and I’ll be able to give you a clearer picture on the road ahead.


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One response to “My experiences around building brands & teams will come in handy: Haresh Chawla”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Scaling up the size at what cost?? What about the Rs 1400 crore debt that the company accumulated on his watch? Which of the properties he was operating was making cash profit? It is easy to play around with promoter’s money. Hope the lesson he learnt would be to be careful with other people’s cash.

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